Sunday, October 19, 2008


Lasagna could possibly be the world’s perfect food. It’s got everything I crave – pasta, meat, tangy tomato sauce, and gooey cheese. I adore it and I order it everywhere. But I have yet to find a lasagna that tops my own. Is this world’s best lasagna? Perhaps not. But it’s MY perfect lasagna. When I crave lasagna – about six times a week – this is what I want.

I’ve made dozens of different versions, and this combines my favorite elements: extra sauce with the meat mixed in, no big chunks of veggies, fresh mozzarella, cottage cheese instead of ricotta, and perfectly cooked noodles. I stopped measuring my ingredients long ago, so I don’t think I’ve made the same lasagna twice. In fact, every time I make it, I think, “Wow, THIS is the best lasagna ever. Wonder what I put in?”

In other words, this is just a technique.
  • You have the noodles: to boil, or not to boil? I prefer to pour boiling water over the noodles and let them sit about 10 minutes until they’re softened, but not cooked. (I hate a mushy noodle.)
  • You need about 4 to 5 cups of your favorite sauce. (You can even separate the meat if you like it that way.) I like jarred sauce for the texture, but use homemade, if you like. Add veggies. Use Italian sausage instead of hamburger. Or, no meat at all.
  • You have the soft cheese. I don’t care for ricotta, but you can swap that in if you prefer it. Just be sure to add an egg or two to bind it together so it doesn’t spread everywhere when you cut into your lasagna.
  • You have the gooey cheese. I love fresh mozzarella, and to me, no lasagna is complete without it. But I also like regular fresh mozzarella for the top. It melts better as a top layer. But hey, use provolone. Or parmesan. Or even cheddar, if that tickles your fancy.

Read this recipe as a cooking method, and use it as a starting point to make YOUR perfect lasagna.

Serves 8-10

12 lasagna noodles
Boiling water – enough to cover lasagna noodles in a baking dish
1 lb. hamburger
Salt, pepper, onion salt, and garlic salt, to taste
2 26-oz. jars pasta sauce
Pinch of crushed red pepper, Italian seasoning, dried basil, and dried oregano
2 c. cottage cheese (I prefer 2%)
½ c. grated parmesan cheese
2 eggs
1½ tsp. dried oregano
12 oz. fresh mozzarella cheese, thinly sliced
2 c. shredded mozzarella cheese
Minced fresh parsley or dried parsley, for sprinkling on top

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place lasagna noodles in a baking dish. Pour boiling water over them and let soak about 10 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, brown hamburger, and season to taste with salt, pepper, onion salt, and garlic salt. Add pasta sauce to hamburger, along with crushed red pepper, Italian seasoning, basil, and oregano, to taste. Cover and simmer about 10 minutes.

3. In a medium bowl, combine cottage cheese, parmesan, eggs, and oregano.

4. Spray a deep 9x13 pan with cooking spray. Add about a cup of sauce to the bottom, to keep the noodles from sticking and drying out.

5. Remove four noodles, one at a time, letting water drain. Lay noodles on top of sauce.

6. Add another cup of sauce to the top of the noodles. Spread half the cottage cheese mixture over the sauce, and layer half the fresh mozzarella.

7. Repeat with four more noodles, another cup of sauce, and remaining cottage cheese and fresh mozzarella.

8. Top with last four noodles and remaining sauce. Cover tightly with foil and bake 1 hour.

Set the timer and take a nap. You've earned it.

9. Remove lasagna from oven. Top with shredded mozzarella and parsley, and bake, uncovered, about 10 minutes or until cheese is melted. (You can even use the broiler, if you're feeling adventurous. Just watch it closely.)

10. Let sit 10 minutes. (Use this time wisely. Make garlic bread.) Then serve.

1 comment:

Mrs Rad Wag said...

It never fails! Every time I read an entry, I get hungry. Could be in the morning, could be right after I've eaten, could be 9:43 at night - I always crave what you've just made! YUM!!!